It was business as usual at the top of the Production Vehicle category leader board when the dust settled on today’s qualifying race for the Harrismith 400, fourth round of the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), here tomorrow.
The two Toyota Gazoo Racing SA entries of reigning South African champions Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie and Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy topped the standings, as they have done throughout the season, on what is a new event on the SACCS calendar. Poulter/Howie were just over a minute ahead of de Villiers and Murphy in the FIA Class, with the two crews reporting clean runs in the 45 kilometre dash to determine start positions for tomorrow’s race.
“It was a nice route with a little of everything,” said Howie. “We had no issues and hopefully the race will bring more of the same.”
The situation in Class T was a different kettle of fish and the final place on the qualifying podium went to Gareth Woolridge and Body Dreyer, in the Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger, who edged out team-mates Lance Woolridge and Ward Huxtable. The gap between the Woolridge brothers was eight seconds with former South African champion Chris Visser and Philip Herselman (Atlas Copco Toyota Hilux) six seconds in arrears.
Visser and Herselman had only two seconds to spare on rookies Henk Lategan and Barry White, in a third Ford NWM Puma Lubricants Ranger, with reigning Class T champions Jason Venter/Vince van Allemann (4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) seventh overall and fifth in Class T. Next up were Venter’s father, Deon, and Jaco van Aardt in a second 4×4 Mega World Toyota Hilux) and current Class T leaders Johan and Werner Horn in the Malalane Toyota Hilux.
With the qualifying race run over only 45 kilometres the time gaps between crews were close. A fraction over 90 seconds separated the Horns from Gareth Woolridge and Dreyer in Class T, and even with two minute dust gaps between cars there is going to be some serious racing in the early stages of the first of two 200 kilometre laps that make up the route.
“We never had any problems but the route is fast and we had problems passing other vehicles in the dust,” said Johan Horn. “Hopefully we can make up time in the race.”
Luke Botha and Andre Vermeulen completed the top 10 in the new Red-Lined Nissan Navara. They had only two seconds to spare over Johan van Staden and Juan Mohr, standing in for regular co-driver Mike Lawrenson, who were 11th overall and third in the FIA Class in the Elf Renault Duster.
Class S was led home by championship leaders Jannie Visser and son Chris in a Toyota Hilux. The Vissers were comfortably ahead of Richard Leeke junior and Henry Kohne (Ford Ranger) who last weekend won the VW Rally to score their first victory in the national rally championship.
Third were SANORA chief executive officer Archie Rutherford and Pieter van Wyk, who deputised for young Kent today, in the Toyota Hilux. They were just over 20 seconds ahead of David Huddy and Gerhard Schutte in a Nissan Navara.
Race headquarters, the start/finish and the designated service park are all situated at the Eeram Famers Complex on the outskirts of Harrismith, with public entrance to these areas and spectator points along the route free of charge. The race starts at 08:00 with a 20 minute compulsory service halt and re-bunch at the end of the first lap.
Images: Nadia Jordaan